Woodworm in furniture

How To Treat Woodworm: 5 Questions

August 23, 2021
Woodworm is usually a generic term we use to describe a wooden item that’s been infested with “wood-eating” larvae. The main signs of woodworm are tiny holes in the wood surface. Nevertheless, the infestation could be dormant. That means the larvae are no longer there. So, how do you assess the woodworm situation correctly? Let’s assume that you want to acquire old furniture at a bargain price. Nevertheless, you see signs of woodworm in furniture. Can you get rid of them? Is there such a thing as a woodworm treatment spray? Rest assured, we’ve got you covered! Find out everything you need to know about woodworms in 5 simple questions:
  1. What does the term woodworm mean?
  2. Which are the main signs of woodworm?
  3. What are the main species of woodworm?
  4. How to treat woodworm
  5. How do you prevent woodworm from coming back?
Wood worms how to treat

What Does “Woodworm” Really Mean?

The general way we use the term “woodworm” can be misleading. Technically, the term “woodworm” refers to the larval stage of certain wood-boring beetles. You can find woodworm anywhere in your home where you’ve got timber. There are various types of woodworms, and they like different kinds of woods and places. So, you might find woodworm in furniture, skirting boards, floorboards, joinery, rafters or joists. Moreover, buildings with excess damp can present woodworm in their structure. Usually, the most vulnerable types of woods are:
  • beech
  • birch
  • cherry
  • spruces
  • alder
As a rule of thumb, softwoods suffer more from woodworm. So, beware of any antique piece of furniture made from softwood. Usually, the older the furniture, the more likely it is to contact woodworms. Nevertheless, not even hardwoods such as oak can be totally safe from wood boring insects. In fact, even solid mahogany can get infested, especially if it’s just a veneer laid on a cheaper wood.

What are wood worms?

What are these pesky little chaps doing with your wood? They are basically beetles, and they thrive in wooden items with 18% or more moisture content. Adult beetles lay their eggs on the surface of the wooden item or just below it. The resulting larvae then feed on the wood. Basically, they dig small tunnels in the wooden item, generating structural and cosmetical damage. After some time, these larvae pupate and turn into beetles. As beetles, they bore their way to the surface. They could then breed and repeat the process. Nevertheless, the presence of holes in the wood is merely the sign of an infestation. The larvae might not be there anymore.

Which are the Main Signs of Infestation?

First of all, you will see the tiny holes in the wood. Secondly, if you scratch a bit at the surface, you will see some white larvae emerging from the wood. You might also notice some tiny pearly eggs in the cracks. Thirdly, if the woodworms in the hardwood floors are still active, you also notice small amounts of fresh bore dust around the holes.
Woodworms problems
During Spring and Summer, you might also spot adult wood beetles coming out of the wood. However, that’s enough woodworm identification. Let’s move now to the main species.

What are the Most Common Species?

First of all, you should know that wood worms are not directly harmful to humans. Nevertheless, certain parasites associated with wood worms can pose a threat to our health. Such a parasite is called Scleroderma domesticum that preys on certain wood worm beetles, such as the Common Furniture Beetle. The Scleroderma domesticum parasite looks like a brown ant that can sting its prey with a paralyzing venom. It cannot paralyse humans, but it can cause you considerable discomfort. Ok, so now we jump directly to woodworm identification! The main types of wood worms are:

The Common Furniture Beetle

It is the most common house borer in the UK. It usually thrives in softwood, making small 1-2 millimetre exit holes with spills of dust around them.

The House Longhorn Beetle

It is rather rare in the UK. It attacks freshly produced sapwood of softwood species, cutting oval exit holes of 6-10 millimetres. Yes, it sounds, and it is quite damaging wood worm species.

The Deathwatch Beetle

This wood boring beetle favours moist, decaying hardwood species, chestnut, oak and ash. It is particularly found in the timber used in the southern regions of the UK.
It causes severe damage as the larvae tunnel towards the centre of the timber in a 10-year lifecycle.

How to Treat Woodworm

Alright, so now it’s time for the woodworm treatment. We’ve seen what these pesky little chaps are doing to your wood. How do we get rid of them? What’s the best woodworm killer? In general, the best woodworm killer is a boron-based powder that you dissolve in water and then apply to the wood. You can use it as a woodworm treatment spray or simply apply it with a brush. The good thing about this solution is that it does not smell or give off unpleasant fumes. You will find the powder in stores. For treating woodworm in furniture, most professionals use a chemical compound called Permethrin. It is efficient, as it paralyses and exterminates the beetles. Nevertheless, it gives out a bad odour and could be harmful to children or pets that come in contact with the treated wood. So, the best woodworm treatment depends on the type of wood infestation you’re dealing with.

DIY Woodworm treatment

You can do it yourself if you do not suspect severe damage. However, if a big part of your wooden floors is infested or the structure of your home has been compromised, we recommend you call a professional. You can choose a Permethrin-based chemical solution and apply it yourself, but please keep in mind that it’s quite toxic. Of course, there are also other natural solutions that could help you get rid of the wood worms.
  1. When the warm season begins, wrap a few fresh acorns in a cloth and the beetles might lay their eggs in the cloth, and the larvae will feed themselves with the acorn. After the breeding season ends, you simply dispose of the cloth and the pesky little wood worms in there.
  2. Wrap the infested area in plastic, and leave just one smore hole through which you spray insecticide. If it’s just a small area that’s been affected, then this method could prove highly efficient.

How to treat woodworm in furniture

Furniture usually has a coating or varnish on the surface. The first step is to sand it down until you get to the wood, and then use a Permethrin or Boron-based chemical solution to kill the woodworms. Vinegar could also help. However, it won’t kill the wood worms. It will merely drive them out of the furniture. You can mix vinegar with water in a 1:1 proportion and spray it on the infested wooden item.

How to treat woodworm in floorboads

Well, if the infestation is serious, you might deal with The House Longhorn Beetle. That’s when you have to require pest treatment by Property Care Association (PCA) professionals. If the infestation is still in its incipient form, you can treat it with a Boron-based substance.
Infested floors
Usually, in the case of infested floorboards, professionals would take them out and remove any debris and parasite from the underfloor. Then they would apply 1-2 coats of a borate salt solution that will kill the beetle.

What is the cost of woodworm treatment?

The cost of woodworm treatment in the case of an average house with an average infestation could range from £500 to £1,500. That would cover a blanket of pesticide for the whole house. Boron-based treatment in the case of small or medium infestation could cost between £30- £50 per 25 sqm. The cost of injectable gels and pastes is somewhat higher.
Woodworm treatment
Permethrin is usually cheaper, but it’s also more toxic.

How Do You Prevent Woodworm from Coming Back

First of all, you need to check the humidity levels in your house. Renew your ventilation systems. Secondly, use a timber moisture meter and measure the moisture level in your floors and furniture. The moisture content should be below 12%. Thirdly, you should make sure that all the affected and infested wood is out of the house. Wood worms can spread from one wooden item to another. Consider getting ultraviolet insect killers. That might help you get rid of emerging adult beetles in the spring and summer periods.
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